Then he said, “He’s my grandfather.”
I couldn’t …
Still more gaping.
“That guy? But he’s…” Evil. That was the best word.
Kash looked at the ground, his hands coming to rest on the counter behind him. His elbows were splayed outward. His knuckles were white. “He’s acquaintances with dictators, third world leaders. He knows six branches of the mafia. He’s done business with all of them. His friends are murderers, and that’s the best way to call them.” A swift intake of air. “He also has two daughters, one that’s dead and one that might as well be. He has two grandsons, myself and my cousin. And he’s the biggest narcissist I’ve ever met.”
His head lifted and I almost stepped back from the agony looking at me. Pure torment and anguish.
“He declared my mom dead to him when she married Joseph Colello. He didn’t have much. My father’s side of the family are middle class, have a shit ton of pride, and are just as stubborn as my grandfather. When my dad brought my mom around, they saw the torture she’d been through. They witnessed, because that’s what it was. That’s what my grandfather did to her. He would say he would kill her sister if she didn’t leave my father. He’d send her videos of my aunt being raped. They saw all of that, heard all of that, and that’s only the stuff I can handle telling you. There was more. There was worse. All the while, he never came and forced her to return to him. He couldn’t do that because, in his twisted mind, that wasn’t her coming to him. He had to beat her down, destroy her completely. That’s the only window she got to remain where she was, and that’s when she had me.”
I felt faint. “Kash,” I murmured, wanting to go to him.
I did. I started. But he clipped his head to the side. Almost a savage motion. “No,” he growled. Half his hand was white now. He was starting to breathe hard, harsh, through flared nostrils.
I could feel his grandfather’s hate. It was in Kash, coming out of him.
And I ached. I wanted to go to him, comfort him, push it away, protect him from his own family. I wanted to do what he’d been doing for me this whole time.
His voice was low, raw. “My grandfather is the most powerful man I know, and he wants me to return to his side.” His eyes zeroed in on me. “This is where all that ugliness connects to you.” A pause. His chest lifted, held, then lowered.
He closed his eyes but remained absolutely still.
“My father met yours when Peter Francis was young and starting to build his empire. He wasn’t quite there. He needed more capital, and he needed investors. My father invested. Because he got in early, yours gave up enough capital so mine was the primary shareholder. Until he died.”
“What happened?” I moved forward now, feeling as if I had to break through a vortex around him. I moved closer. Inch by inch. Kash looked like a cornered animal. I needed to approach with caution.
Still raw, his voice dipped. “When my parents died, those shares weren’t sold or diluted. Your father kept them, and he’s been acting in representation of me. I hold those shares.”
I reared back. “You said primary shareholder? Is that…” Dear Lord. Did he own more than … I swallowed tight.
A hard glint showed in his eyes. “I own more of your father’s empire than even he does.” He showed his teeth, the smile not a smile at all. And he pushed off the counter now. “I also have an inheritance from my mother that would make me the tenth-richest man in the world. My grandfather fucked up. He killed the wrong daughter. He took out the one who was smart, who knew how to invest, how to use the money she inherited from her parents, who had his talent for making money. She did it all under his nose. He never knew, until he did.” A pause.
“It says my parents died by carbon monoxide poisoning from an accidental malfunction at a cabin. Those reports don’t detail how the head of my grandfather’s security booked a plane ticket to Aspen on the day before my parents were there. That there’s camera footage of him driving the very road to their cabin, or how he booked a late plane ticket out of Aspen the night they died.” Black humor lifted. “They went peacefully, and I’ve no doubt that was at the request of him. Because he loved my mother more than he did my aunt. It was his weakness. He could hurt my aunt all day and all night, but my mother—he respected her. It’s why he never forced her to join him. But letting her live free of him? He couldn’t do that, not when he found out how much wealth she had accumulated, because he wanted it. He still wants it.”
“Oh, God. Kash.”
I needed to touch him. I needed to help him.
I was in front of him, my hand raising.
He caught it, almost violently. I was about to touch his chest, when he moved like a snake, latching on to my wrist, and held me there. I was transfixed, my arm in the air, his hand holding it there, and we both stared at each other.
A primal look flared. Deep. Primitive.
I felt it in me, answering him. I was burning alive, awake. I had to touch him, and I tried again. Stepping in. Nothing. He held me in place, not letting me move an inch, but he didn’t look away. He couldn’t. He was staring at me like he was starving for me.
“Because my mother was estranged, she had documents saying that in any circumstances, I should go to your father. I was never adopted, but they fostered me. If Peter adopted me, my grandfather wouldn’t have allowed it. His ego wouldn’t have been able to allow it. Your father raised me when he couldn’t raise you.” His nostrils closed, his eyes were smoldering. “I’m the reason you weren’t brought into the family.”
“What?” A hole was punched inside of me.
“When your mother told Peter about you, he told her there was danger in growing up as his child. Your mother made the choice to raise you without him. Your mom did that. Not Peter. And it was because of me. He was worried my grandfather would try to hurt Peter through his children. A bastard child for a bastard child. That’s what he thinks of me. A bastard child. So, you’re not alone in that category.”
I felt sick.
I tried to pull away, but he didn’t let go of me.
“There’ve been kidnapping rings who have tried to ransom the others. That happens sometimes, when someone is as rich as your father, but the one who got the closest was with Cyclone. I destroyed them. Word got out who I was, where I came from, who I have been hiding from, learning to fight, learning how to protect myself all my life, and those hostage attempts stopped. Until you. I had your father wipe out everything on the internet about me.